You will enter Heaven as fully by grace as if you had never lived a godly life, nor had practiced a single virtue.
– Charles Spurgeon
Wow. Really? Not even one virtue would make a difference?
No, it won’t. “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast.” (Eph 2:8-9). Salvation is by grace, a gift of God, not by works.
It’s really hard to swallow, isn’t it? Especially when we are in this meritocratic society where people are rewarded according to how they performed and what they achieved. It’s so ingrained in us, that if there’s any deviation from the system, we cry foul. ‘Unfair’, we say. But that’s where grace is so radical. It’s free, unmerited, the proverbial ‘free lunch’. No strings attached.
And Mark Galli explains that, because it’s grace, we can really love God in our obedience, and not just perform our duty as part of a deal.
If grace is in any way, shape, or form a deal, a quid pro quo, a bargain, a contract, then we will always be obligated to do our part. It would then be our duty to do what God says. It would turn Christian ethics into another law, and therefore into another burden, into “Alienation: The Sequel.” God is not looking for people first and foremost to do or be good, to fulfill the law—in Christ he’s already fulfilled it (Matt. 5:17)! He’s looking for people who will love—love God and neighbor.
But love cannot be created by contract, no matter how righteous the clauses. If a “grace contract”—to speak absurdly—is to remain in force, God would do his part, and then we would be obligated to do ours, or vice versa. A contract is about mutual obligation. It has nothing to do with love. Only unconditional grace can transform a hardened heart into a grateful heart. Only a free gift can sabotage any notion of the quid pro quo. Only an utterly merciful act of love can fashion a new creation capable of love. As theologian Karl Barth puts it, “As the beloved of God, we have no alternative but to love him in return.”
– Mark Galli, The Great Evangelical Anxiety, Christianity Today
Abba, may Your grace never cease to amaze me.